2018-19 NBA West Over / Under Predictions
Yesterday I posted my predictions for the Eastern Conference in case you missed it. Today I present my over / under totals in the West. The teams will be presented in order of confidence beginning with the over / under I am most confident in. The totals are from OddsShark as of October 12th. As always, you can discuss this article on the BSL message board.
San Antonio Spurs O / U 44.5 Pick: Under
I know, I know, the Spurs have been over this number for every year of this millennium! I know, I know, they still won 47 games last year even though they got almost nothing out of their best player in Kawhi Leonard, and have replaced him with All-Star DeMar DeRozan! How could I pick against Pop and one of the greatest franchises in American sports? And with so much confidence to boot?!? Well for starters, last year was the first year of the millennium in which San Antonio failed to reach 50 wins. Secondly, they are now completely devoid of the core from their extended dynasty with Manu and Parker exiting along with the aforementioned superstar that helped extend that run. In addition, many of the players the Spurs are depending on are on the wrong side of their prime and two of the best young players from last year are out of the picture with Dejounte Murray blowing out his ACL and Kyle Anderson leaving for Memphis. So this is now a team with a series issue at the point, decreased depth, a loss of leadership and culture considering the departing vets, and some fit issues due to poor three point shooting and some potentially porous defensive lineups. Defense was this team’s strength last season, but it is hard to see that repeating with the losses of Murray, Anderson, and Danny Green and the additions of DeRozan and Marco Belinelli. If I lose this one, hats off to Pop.
Utah Jazz O / U 49.5 Pick: Over
The Jazz were the best defensive team in the NBA last year, and unlike the Spurs, should remain elite on that end of the court. They struggled more on offense as they ranked 19th, but they did trend up towards the end of the season. Utah won 48 games last year, but underachieved their 53 expected win total based on their point differential, and they were without their best player in Rudy Gobert for 26 games. Those are excellent indicators for the Jazz to go over 49.5 wins this year, but beyond that, Donovan Mitchell is likely to improve in his second year, and I like Dante Exum as a candidate to become a very good bench player in his age 23 season. Quin Synder is also one of the best coaches in the NBA. The Jazz should easily get into the 50’s unless they are hit hard by injuries.
Houston Rockets O / U 55.5 Pick: Over
The Rockets won 65 games last year, lost some key role players, most notably Trevor Ariza, and brought in some largely uninspiring replacements led by Carmelo Anthony and Marquese Chriss, but even with that said, I would be surprised to see them lose 10 more games than they did last season. A lot went right for Houston last year of course for them to reach 65 wins, but Chris Paul missed 24 games, James Harden missed 10, Clint Capella missed 8, and several of their role players missed a fair amount of time. So while I would not necessarily expect better health this year, especially from an injury prone player like CP3, they did not benefit from injury luck last year. They did benefit from having two tremendous players plus very good players in Capella and Eric Gordon, solid role players, and math. That same formula should still exist this year to get Houston into a position where they threaten 60 wins again. Sure, Melo could sabotage the team, but considering his relationship with Paul, and his desire to redeem himself after last year, I think Anthony will be better at accepting a lesser role and will perform better in what will likely be a more defined role this season. One other reason to bet the over is that Darryl Morey is one of the most aggressive general managers in seeking upgrades any time of year, so an extra productive piece or two will likely be heading to Houston at some point this year.
Phoenix Suns O / U 29.5 Pick: Under
The Suns have some potential to be good within the next three years, but not this year. Phoenix only won 21 games last on a point differential that suggests they should have only won 19. I am not sure where all of this improvement is going to come from. Sure, Ayton is a promising rookie and they should see some improvement from their young core and Booker should play more games even though he is coming off an injury as I type, but they still lack a competent point guard and much 3 point shooting. Unless Trevor Ariza’s leadership is amazing or Ayton is an instant star, I would expect this to be a team that can be fun to watch, but far from a cohesive unit. Ultimately it makes a lot more sense for this team to try to get a top pick than to try to get their win total into the 30’s.
Warriors O / U 63.5 Pick: Under
This bet boils down to motivation. The Warriors can easily surpass this total if they are relatively healthy and motivated. The latter is the key as this team understandably often struggled to get up for games last year and the coaching staff is of course going to prioritize health and rest over the regular season. I do not see those issues improving this season after winning the title again unless DeMarcus Cousins’ addition ignites them, but even if that happens, his return likely won’t be until roughly around the All-Star break. Speaking of Cousins, while he may be a difference maker in the playoffs, I would not expect him to be close to peak Boogie next year coming off the torn Achilles, which is a very difficult injury to come back from. The other factor is that the Warriors’ depth is no longer a strength, especially before Cousins returns, and that is made worse by Golden State preferring to give adequate rest to their veterans.
Los Angeles Lakers O / U 48.5 Pick: Over
LeBron James’ teams win 50+ games. 10 straight years if we give the Heat 4 extra wins out of the 16 missed due to the lockout in 2011. Now I understand that basing a pick partially off that logic goes against my earlier Spurs under bet, but LeBron has won 50+ games with worse teams, he should be more motivated throughout the year than he was last year, and I actually like this Lakers’ team. They are very deep everywhere but center, they should be the best passing team in the league, and they have some talented young players that should take a step or two up this season. I also think their outside shooting will be better than many seem to be anticipating, partially due to the quality of looks that should be generated because of that passing, as well as playing at a high tempo like they seem primed to do, and of course simply because of the attention LeBron garners. The quality of shooters may be a little better than given credit for as well as Hart, Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, and Ingram are all good to very good beyond the arc and indications are that Lonzo should be at least adequate this year as well. Even Rajon Rondo has worked to become a respectable three point shooter and rookie big Moritz Wagner has range too. Back to the young guys, Brandon Ingram is primed for a breakout year as a long athlete that can initiate the offense, score in transition, and play well off the ball as a good shooter as well as someone that can attack the basket with his length and athleticism. Lonzo Ball is a passing savant that should improve his other aspects of his offensive game in his second year, and he actually plays good defense. I think Josh Hart can be a very solid player starting this year as well. In conclusion, this is a talented and deep team that is going to generate a lot of excitement at Staples Center and I think LeBron will be the more invigorated in the regular season than he has been in years.
Denver Nuggets O / U 47.5 Pick: Over
The Nuggets won 46 games last year even though Paul Millsap only played 38 games and despite their young core playing in their age 22, 20, and 23 seasons. With a healthy Millsap and an extra year of experience for Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris (a young trio that I really like), I am expecting this team to at least win around 50 games, and they could even get into the mid 50’s if things break right for them. Denver’s starting lineup should be excellent offensively while defense remains a big concern, but you would think that more Millsap and more experience for the young players will help to get this team closer to mediocrity on that end of the floor instead of just plain bad. The bench could be a swing point for Denver though as besides their strong backup bigs (Mason Plumlee and Trey Lyles), they are relying on unproven and under touted young talent plus injury prone players that will start the year off the court in Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. If Denver gets much production of IT and Porter, they should easily hit the over as long as they avoid bad injury luck elsewhere, but I think this team has a good chance at the over even without banking on much from either player.
Sacramento Kings O / U 26 Pick: Under
The Kings have been going under since seemingly the dawn of time, and I will pick this train wreck of an organization to do so once again. I do not have total confidence though, largely because the Kings do not own their first round draft choice next year so there is no incentive to tank. Thus, it would not be shocking for De’Aaron Fox to take a leap and lead a scrappy team that tries to win until the end to 27 or more wins(what they won last year). Still, this looks like a really bad team and I am not much of a believer in Marvin Bagley, so I see this team actually getting a little worse than last year, where they actually outperformed their expected win-loss record by 4 games.
New Orleans Pelicans O / U 45.5 Pick: Over
This over is largely based on the Pelicans superstar entering his age 25 season. Anthony Davis very much belongs in the best player discussion and despite the fragile tag placed on him, he has played 75 games each of the past 2 seasons, and he is dominant on both ends of the court. Oh, and he is now much more willing to play center (where he belongs) than he was in the past. Losing Cousins is not ideal, but this team actually went to another level last season with Nikola Mirotic taking Boogie’s spot after the injury, and New Orleans made a good move to bolster their frontcourt by adding Julius Randle, who is a young, talented player that can take some scoring and creating pressure away from AD and Jrue Holiday. My primary non health concerns remain their weakness at the wing, which they overcame last year on course to 48 wins, and the loss of Rondo. I can’t believe I typed that last part, but Rondo was decent on the court last year and also seemed to have a great influence off it. Still, AD and company should get 46+ wins.
Los Angeles Clippers O / U 36.5 Pick: Over
I will keep this one short and sweet. The Clippers have a lot of decent to good vets (with a couple rookies with potential sprinkled in), guys who mostly impact their teams positively, and they largely fit together well. The obviously lack a star, but this is the type of team I can easily see grinding out 40 or so wins.
Dallas Mavericks O / U 34.5 Pick: Over
The Mavericks have some respectable vets like new acquisition DeAndre Jordan along with Harrison Barnes and the all-time great Dirk Nowitzki to help lead them to a respectable season. However, the primary reason for the over pick is their talented young duo of Dennis Smith Jr and Luka Doncic. I expect improvement from the former and a great rookie season from the latter who has immense ability and has been seasoned by tough competition in Europe over the past several years. That may seem like a lot to bank an 11 win improvement on, but they did underachieve their point differential by 9 wins last year, and their new analytics guy, Haralabos Voulgaris, is a great basketball mind that should help squeeze some wins out of this roster.
Oklahoma City Thunder O / U 48.5 Pick: Under
The Thunder won 48 games last year with an expected win total of 50 wins, and I think their supporting cast may actually be a little better this year with Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel joining. So why am I going under? Well Russell Westbrook is coming off knee surgery and entering his age 30 season, two big concerns for a player that has exceled largely due to being one of the best athletes in league history. If he misses some time and/or loses a little bit of athleticism, this team is likely to drop off some, even if the rest of the team is improved.
Portland Trailblazers O / U 42 Pick: Over
The Blazers won 49 games last year and bring back largely the same team so this under seems rather low. I do think they overachieved some last year and there is a risk of things getting stale with the same core and/or Lilliard or McCollum being dealt if the team struggles some or there is some friction, but absent of that, this team should reach the over here even though they will likely fall short of last years’ win total.
Memphis Grizzlies O / U 33.5 Pick: Under
This is one I lack confidence in because the Grizzlies are a team that likely should be looking towards the future, but are still stuck in the Conley and Gasol era, and that is a good tandem. However, they have obviously had a lot of injury issues in recent years and Gasol is getting up there in years. So if I had to choose, I would bet on one or both of Conley and Gasol getting hurt or traded, which would very like ensure the under.
Minnesota Timberwolves O / U 42 (this one has been in fluctuation due to the Jimmy Butler saga) Pick: Over
Depending on where you bet, this one may not even been on the board at the moment, but going off the total 42, I would have to choose the over based on what we know now. If Jimmy Butler plays for the Wolves this season and the team doesn’t self-combust, they should easily beat this total as this is a 50ish caliber team as constructed. Karl Anthony Towns should reach another level and maybe Wiggins will improve as well, especially after being called out by Butler. All that said, this is too risky of a bet given the chaos within the organization at the moment.